Learning the lessons of Hurricane Katrina
Ever since French colonial administrators made the building of levees a requirement for the perfection of land titles in New Orleans, a cataclysmic flood became just a question of time. Napoleon’s need for cash forced him to fire-sale the Louisiana Purchase to President Jefferson for (in today’s dollars) only $193 million or 51 cents-per-acre. So, we might think of Hurricane Katrina as Napoleon’s Revenge.
Now, we need learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina and apply them to other major metropolitan areas: First of all, Katrina killed land line and cell phone communications. All civilian responders must convert to a satellite-based communications system. The military’s world-class communications were a key reason why our military was so quickly effective with rescue and evacuation.
Secondly, when the dwellings and families of local police officers and other first responders are in peril, we cannot expect them to function because the natural human tendency is protection of one’s family. We cannot expect the police, once they are back on patrol, to stop victims from obtaining water and food – even if they loot it. And, when the jails are flooded, we need to understand there is no place to incarcerate arrested looters for stealing jewelry or other high-value non-essentials. Thus, the role of local police and other first responders becomes that of rescue and evacuation.
Thirdly, the manner in which mayors and state governors will use their assets will vary. With a five-day hurricane warning, the Mayor of New Orleans should have backed his evacuation order by immediately using school buses to evacuate his city -- especially, the poor. The Governor of Louisiana should have deployed her National Guard assets immediately instead of waiting until New Orleans was flooded.
Forth, we need a national ID system. Due to Mad Cow Disease, we have a better ID handle on bovines than humans. We are clueless as to who is resident in our nation and clueless as to how the rescued can find out about missing loved ones. For Heaven’s sake, our canine-American has a micro-chip buried in this body that will allow us to ID him if lost, strayed or stolen.
Fifth, New Orleans, and the function it serves as the outlet for our agricultural products of the Great Plains and the inlet for petroleum products must be rebuilt above sea level. We can do without Bourbon Street and all that jazz. But we really need that seaport.
Sixth, the federal government must get congressional authorization to enforce preparations for massive evacuations of major urban areas using the military’s Non-combatant Evacuation (NEO) Plan for Europe as a model:
NEO required all personal vehicles to have at least a half tank of gas. Car trunks had to contain a case of C-rations, a certain amount of water and other emergency supplies sufficient for all family members. NEO prescribed a certain route for each family to follow into France or the Netherlands or Belgium. Yearly, each family had to practice their NEO route as far as the western border of Germany. Selected Sergeants were empowered as NEO compliance inspectors and their orders trumped all other ranks, to include General Officers.
Is it realistic to think Americans would submit to emergency water and food storage requirements, to submit to inspections, to participate in practice evacuations as did our military dependents in Europe? Yes, the better educated probably would; however, as we see in New Orleans, the welfare-dependent living in subsidized government housing will be the last to comply with evacuation orders, either for lack of transportation resources and/or due to a general indifference to whatever is going on outside their housing projects.
Unfortunately, the Left and the Sinistra Media say little about the lessons to be learned focusing, instead, on their typical blame-Bush-game. So far, they have ignored that Louisiana and New Orleans have been governed by one party since time immemorial. Longtime one-party rule, by either party, always leads to massive corruption, so funds made available via FEMA, and even a recent New Orleans bond issue for $206 million, were not spent to strengthen the levees.
Remember the millions we poured into tsunami relief and our efforts to save the Muslims in the Balkans from being killed by the Serbs? Despite that, the Muslim Red Crescent won’t send aid to the “infidels” on our Gulf Coast.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist, a featured commentator for USA Today and self-described “recovering lawyer and philosopher,” is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2005. William Hamilton.